Reading’s housing crisis
There is little doubt that the Reading area is suffering a severe housing crisis and that the shortage of affordable homes to buy and rent affects thousands of residents.
Too many local people are living in overcrowded private rented housing, sharing with parents, sofa surfing, or are affected in some other way by the lack of homes.
And, I was pleased that Jeremy Corbyn came to Reading to see the problem for himself last week.
For many young people who are saving hard it is almost impossible to buy their first home, unless they are lucky enough to have help from generous parents.
For others it is difficult to even find a home at all, with rents now averaging £780 a month for a room in a shared house.
And, there are very few new council houses available to rent.
The shortage of council homes was made far worse when former Chancellor George Osborne restricted local councils’ ability to build homes, as a result, Reading Borough’s plan to build 1,000 new council homes has been scrapped.
The council is flexing every bit of its reduced financial muscle to do what it can, but is only able to fund a much smaller programme.
George Osborne’s serious mistake was compounded by the Government also making it harder for councils to insist that a significant proportion of homes in private developments are affordable.
That is why I’m calling for the Government to rethink its housing policy, and in particular, for my colleague the Housing Minister and Conservative MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma, to rethink his approach.
I would like him to support Reading and other councils to help them build more council houses for renters – and to help change planning rules to insist that developers build more affordable homes for home buyers.
Reading has the brownfield land. The town’s recent draft local plan showed there are enough brownfield sites within the borough to provide almost all the housing Reading is expected to need until the 2030s.
What is needed now is Government action to tackle unfairness in the housing market.